I own two digital cameras today. I own a Canon 5D digital SLR and a very small Powershot SD870 IS.
The SLR takes gorgeous photos with great depth of field control and amazing low light performance. Alas, when I carry my usual set of lenses (16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L and 85mm f1.8) and a flash in my lowpro backpack, its like bringing along another child on our family excursions. I take care of the camera and my wife takes care of the kids. I would estimate my bag weight at 10lbs.
The Powershot SD870IS is great outdoors, but you can’t really blur the background on a portrait with the camera (focal length too short), it is not that responsive and the low light performance is mediocre to bad. On the plus side, the camera is small enough to ski with and takes great video. It is light at 5.8oz!
The camera I want is a point and shoot camera that combines the best of both worlds. The camera would use the sensor of the Canon 40D (1.6 crop factor relative to standard 35mm, 10 megapixel) and have a built-in 22mm (35mm equivalent), f1.8 prime, coated Canon lens. That would provide a view that looked like a “standard” 35MM lens. The camera would also provide a digital cropped mode that created the equivalent of an 85MM lens (53MM lens in cropped form factor).
Let’s call this camera the Canon T4, named in honor to the Yashica T4 that offered something similar in the world of film. The Canon T4 would be the enthusiasts travel camera of choice. I am going to estimate the weight at 10oz, 3oz less than the Canon G9 disaster (we are losing the optical zoom).
This camera would likely be about the same size as the Canon G9, but a lot flatter. And it would have amazing image quality and awesome low light performance. You could shoot indoors, without flash, at IS0 1600. When used in cropped “portrait” mode at 85MM equivalent, it would produce images that are approximately 4 megapixels. But since these bits would be off a high quality prime lens and 40D sensor, you would be perfectly happy with them. (No optical zoom please. Just lowers image quality and makes for a darker lens). Background blur (bokeh) would come naturally to this camera because of its bright max aperture and longer focal length.
While we are dreaming, let’s imagine this camera has a few creative modes like Aperture priority, Shutter priority and decent shot to shot time. It would omit the optical viewfinder in favor of a bright LCD. The optical viewfinder would be annoying in digital crop mode anyway. Don’t scrimp on the auto-focus system.
Who would buy this camera? prosumers and amateurs who want the quality of a digital SLR but the weight and convenience of a point and shoot. This camera would take images that were indistinguishable from the Canon 40D at 35mm (equivalent). The camera would also sell into the photojournalism market. Might be a lot more convenient to carry around a war zone than a digital SLR (Remember when Rangerfinders and photojournalism where synonymous?)
It seems like this camera is technologically possible today. This is what the PowerShot G9 should have been. Instead the G9 is a heavier version of the Powershot SD line with no real benefit in image quality or high ISO noise and bad depth of field control.
Do you want this camera? Say so in the comments. Maybe Canon will notice.